The Evolution of Batman Halloween Costumes

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The Evolution of Batman Halloween Costumes

The classic plastic mask that came with Batman Halloween costumes for decades has become so iconic that it is even a recurring bit on The Venture Brothers. Batman Halloween costumes have come a long way since Ben Cooper Inc. first licensed the character back in 1964. See the evolution of the licensed Batman Halloween costume from 1964 to today!

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A world without Batman

Fascinatingly, despite being a popular character since his first comic debuted in 1939 (and having a costume that seems like it is practically designed for Halloween Costume usage), Batman was not licensed for Halloween costumes until the 1960s. His fellow DC Comics superhero, Superman, got all the attention, almost certainly because of the long-running Adventures of Superman radio show and television show, which together ran for pretty much the entirety of the 1940s and 1950s. If you wanted to have a Batman Halloween costume in the 1940s or the 1950s, you would have to make it yourself (or rather, your mother would have to make it for you). 

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Ben Cooper Inc.

Malmey Studios

Ben Cooper began his Halloween costume company in 1937 after his original business of making costumes for Broadway shows was beginning to dry up. His company ballooned to be one of the biggest Halloween costume suppliers in the country until it went out of business in 1991. Ben Cooper Inc. was known for their cheap costumes with plastic masks. The Batman costume in the image above was the definitive Ben Cooper Inc. Batman Halloween costume for decades (only the material the costume was made out of changed, as naturally things got cheaper as the years went by). Plaid Stallions has a nice catalog shot of this costume in action. When people think of classic Batman Halloween costumes, they are almost assuredly thinking of the ones made by Ben Cooper Inc., with the plastic Batman face mask with the Batman logo on his forehead and the word "Batman" written on his chest.

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Play Costumes

Sears

While Ben Cooper Inc. made Batman Halloween costumes, they also made more elaborate Batman "play costumes" intended for year round play. These costumes (which were much more expensive than a typical Ben Cooper Inc. Batman Halloween costume, roughly four times the cost) would, of course, also be used as Halloween costumes by children. 

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Batman Sewing Patterns

McCalls

While Ben Cooper Inc. owned the license for store-bought Batman Halloween costumes, The McCall Pattern Company had a longstanding license with DC for sewing patterns for parents to sew Batman, Robin and Superman costumes for their kids. 

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Late in the Game Changes

Ben Cooper Inc.'s Batman costume has become so iconic and connected with the 1960s and 1970s that people sometimes forget that Ben Cooper Inc. held the license until 1991. By the end of the 1980s, with the success of the 1989 Tim Burton Batman film, even Ben Cooper Inc. had to update their Batman Halloween costume to match the darker look of the film version of the Dark Knight Detective. Notice how they have cut on costs by only having a bag instead of a box and it looks like it is just a mask and a cape instead of the traditional coverall.  When Ben Cooper Inc. went out of business, it was purchased by Rubies Costume Co.

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Collegeville Steps In

Collegeville

With Ben Cooper Inc. out of business, their biggest rival, Collegeville Flag and Manufacturing Company (yes, just like how Ben Cooper moved out of Broadway costuming to start making Halloween costumes, Collegeville moved away from flags to costumes. They even pre-date the creation of Ben Cooper Inc.) stepped in in the early 1990s. Here is a Collegeville Halloween catalog from 1992. Notice how they are already mixing up the approach with (at the time) new-fangled approaches to kid's Halloween costumes. Sadly, Collegeville was going through a lot of the same problems Ben Cooper Inc. was during the early 1990s recession, so they, too, went out of business, just five years after Ben Cooper Inc. Like Ben Cooper Inc., they were also purchased by Rubies Costume Co. 

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Rubies Costume Co. Taks Control

Rubies Costume Co.

Since acquiring the Batman license, Rubies Costume Co. has gone much more in depth than either Ben Cooper Inc. or Collegeville ever did. The picture I've included is just a single page in their extensive catalog featuring many, many different Batman Halloween costumes for kids, adults and even infants! (Seriously, you should check it out, it's huge.) Batman sure has come a long way in 50 years, from no Halloween costumes to cheap plastic costumes to a whole catalog filled with elaborate costumes. It's been quite a journey.